Over the weekend, former Ranger Mats Zuccarello interviewed with a Norwegian paper about Henrik Lundqvist, his former team, and how/why he chose Minnesota in free agency. Suffice it to say, he did not mince words. He unloaded on the Rangers, saying the way they are handling Henrik Lundqvist –his good friend– is “disrespectful” and that loyalty “doesn’t mean shit” with the Rangers.
There were a lot of hot takes going around, and this is certainly a topic we are going to discuss on the podcast (recording tonight!). But this is a good topic to get some thoughts out there.
1. First and foremost, let’s recognize the reality of the interview. Hank is one of Zucc’s closest friends, so I’m sure this is personal for him too. Also, Zucc very clearly did not want to leave New York. He took a hometown discount twice for the Rangers. He wanted to retire a Ranger. Obviously that was not in the cards.
2. There is a failure by Zucc to recognize the business of the game. Yes, Zucc wanted to be a Ranger. But the Rangers were rebuilding, hockey is a business, and Zuccarello was one of the few tradeable assets this club had. He had the unfortunate situation of being an expiring contract at the wrong time. To us and to the Rangers, it was a tough business decision. To him, it was personal, especially after watching others get traded away.
3. Without speculating too much, Zuccarello probably knows more about the Henrik Lundqvist situation than we do. The two are close. They talk. That said, it is odd to me that Zucc spoke freely about the situation. Lundqvist hasn’t said anything, neither has the organization. I don’t know how to read into that, other than his personal feelings boiling over. On the surface, this wasn’t his place to talk about it.
4. For those wondering why players don’t take hometown discounts, this is why. Teams very rarely remember what you did for them. It’s clear Zuccarello was hurt by the trade. We all remember what happened with Brian Leetch. We have yet to see what will happen with Hank. For those criticizing players for taking as much money as possible, or for leaving to go to a winning team, take a step back. When teams aren’t loyal, and have never had a history of being loyal, why should the players?
5. It is not Zuccarello’s business how the Rangers handled their three goalie situation. No one knows how this is going to play out. The only thing we know is that at some point the Rangers will need to choose between Igor Shesterkin and Alex Georgiev. Hank will not be in that conversation, and that decision point is coming sooner rather than later.
6. Zuccarello is 100% correct when he says that if Hank won a Cup in 2014 or 2015, we wouldn’t be having any of these conversations.
7. I think too much is being made of the “Minnesota only travels to New York once a year” quote. Zucc signed there because it sounds like they are the only team that went to five years and were in the Western Conference. It seems obvious visiting MSG more would be painful to Zucc.